Climate change is a pressing environmental issue caused by human activity that poses grave dangers for ecosystems, biodiversity, food security and human health. As temperatures rise on earth, ecosystems are experiencing effects such as accelerated erosion, disruption of water cycles and loss of habitats that support life.
Ecosystems are essential components of human societies. Not only do they provide water and nutrients for human needs, but they also conserve biodiversity, clean air and water, regulate climate and soil. All of these ecosystem services play a significant role in maintaining human wellbeing; helping us live with greater quality of life.
Many ecosystems and the services they provide are greatly influenced by a variety of factors, including organism distribution and physiology; weather patterns, land use changes and climate change; as well as pollution effects. Since ecosystems are inextricably linked to atmosphere and hydrosphere, changes in these environments have direct and often irrevocable impacts on their capacity for providing essential services to humans.
Our beloved ecosystems, from forests to oceans, are vulnerable to changes caused by global warming. These changes affect everything from soil water-holding capacity, freshwater bodies and wetlands, as well as marine organisms and systems.
Global warming caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions is causing Earth’s temperature to rise and melting Arctic sea ice and rising oceans, contributing to extreme events like heat waves, droughts and wildfires as well as decreasing water availability.
Ecosystems adapt to climate change by altering their physical habitat, timing biological events and altering the size and distribution of populations. These responses are commonly referred to as adaptation or resilience.
These adaptive changes may also be accompanied by reductions in population growth and declines of certain species. They are difficult to forecast and may occur more frequently in certain places than others.
Biodiversity refers to the diversity of organisms living within an ecosystem. On Earth, there are millions of distinct plants and animals that depend on one another and their environment for survival.
Animals are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, and climate change is already having a noticeable impact on biodiversity. Some species are moving north due to warmer temperatures while others have had to reduce their ranges.
Furthermore, many species have become more adaptable to warmer temperatures and some have even evolved new methods of adapting.
The world is now 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it was in the late 1800s, and this warming trend is intensifying. This is caused by an accumulation of anthropogenic greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane from fossil fuel burning and deforestation in the atmosphere.
Climate change is being driven by an accumulation of extra heat in the atmosphere. Estimates suggest human-caused emissions have contributed approximately 64% of global carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from transport, industry, buildings and agriculture. Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase significantly over the coming decades as our economy grows and we become more reliant on energy sources and transportation for daily life.